As it’s halfway through November already (eek!), it’s a little late but here’s the October reading list (since my review of Resenting the Hero is so close to done but my brain is starting to feel too mushy to get it quite right).  It’s a short list, but that’s largely because I was working on getting this new site up and trying to get caught up on some reviews.

Books read in October:

41. The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron (review)
42. Elfland by Freda Warrington (review)
43. The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (review)

Favorite book: This was actually a really good month for reading – The Spirit Thief was fun, and I read two books that I absolutely loved back to back.  Elfland is definitely my favorite, though, and I’ll be reading the new Aetherial Tales book next because I enjoyed it so much.

What did you read during October and what did you think of the books you read?

November is turning out to be a crazy month, but I’m hoping to get a review of Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore started today and up sometime this week.  I just needed to read something fun last weekend and ended up picking that based on what I had heard – and it was just what I was in the mood for.

This week brought three review copies and one ARC, plus my husband bought an e-book a couple of weeks ago that he reminded me I forgot to mention.

The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear

The third book in the Edda of Burdens will be available in hardcover in February 2011.  I loved both All the Wind-wracked Stars (review) and By the Mountain Bound (review) so of course I immediately said yes when I was asked if I wanted an ARC of the third book.  The Sea Thy Mistress is a direct sequel to All the Wind-wracked Stars (the middle book, By the Mountain Bound, is a prequel).  The cover is not available on any of the sites I normally get covers from, but if you want to see the whole cover spread, Elizabeth Bear posted it on her blog a little while ago.  I decided not to post the blurb here because it contains a lot of spoilers for All the Wind-wracked Stars, but here is the publisher’s description of the The Sea Thy Mistress if you do want to read it.

The Castings Trilogy by Pamela Freeman

This omnibus contains Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle and is huge – over 1200 pages in trade paperback.  I was thrilled to get a copy since I’ve been curious about the first book in this trilogy for a while now and recently decided I definitely wanted to read it after I saw Sarah’s review of it at Bookworm Blues.  All the individual books are currently available, and this collection containing all three will be available in December.  The first chapter of Blood Ties can be read online.

A thousand years ago, the Eleven Domains were invaded and the original inhabitants were driven onto the road as Travelers, belonging nowhere, welcomed by no one. Now the Domains are governed with an iron fist by the Warlords, but there are wilder elements in the landscape that cannot be controlled and that may prove the Warlords’ undoing. Some are spirits of place – of water and air and fire and earth. Some are greater than these. And some are human.

Bramble: A village girl whom no one living can tame, forced to flee her home for a crime she did not commit.

Ash: A safeguarder’s apprentice who must kill for an employer he cannot escape.

Saker: An enchanter who will not rest until the land is returned to his people.

As their three stories unfold, along with the stories of those whose lives they touch, it becomes clear that they are bound together in ways that not even a stonecaster could have foreseen – by their past, their future, and their blood.This omnibus edition includes all three novels – Blood Ties, Deep Water, and Full Circle – together for the first time.

Law of the Broken EarthLaw of the Broken Earth by Rachel Neumeier

The third book in the Griffin Mage trilogy will be released in December.  Both the previous books, Lord of the Changing Winds and Land of the Burning Sands, were published earlier this year.  I haven’t read Lord of the Changing Winds yet, but I have been wanting to start this trilogy so hopefully I will read it at some point.

In Feierabiand, in the wide green Delta, far from the burning heat of the griffin’s desert, Mienthe’s peaceful life has been shaken. Tan – clever, cynical, and an experienced spy – has brought a deadly secret out of the neighboring country of Linularinum.

Now, as three countries and two species rush toward destruction, Mienthe fears that even her powerful cousin Bertaud may be neither able nor even willing to find a safe path between the secret Linularinum would kill to preserve and the desperate ferocity of the griffins. But can Mienthe?

And, in the end, will Tan help her . . . or do everything in his power to stand in her way?

The Bone PalaceThe Bone Palace by Amanda Downum

The second book in the Necromancer Chronicles will be available in December.  Last year I read the first book, The Drowning City, and had very mixed feelings about it (review).  I liked the prose but could not connect with the characters, and I only found myself enjoying the last third of the book.  It’s not a book I would have bought myself, but since it was sent to me I might try it at some point although it won’t be a high priority with all the other books there are to read.  I am a bit curious since I liked what I read of the beginning and I saw this was on the Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2010 list for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.  Plus the cover quote by Jacqueline Carey is taunting me (although the main reason I read the last one was the cover quote by Elizabeth Bear, whose writing I love).

Death is no stranger in the city of Erisín– but some deaths attract more attention than others.

When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi deep beneath the city. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisín…As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city and demons stalk the streets, Isyllt must decide who she’s prepared to betray, before the city built on bones falls into blood and fire.

I Shall Wear MidnightI Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

This is the e-book I forgot to mention a little while back.  My husband bought the newest Tiffany Aching book (in the young adult Discworld series) and has already read it.  I haven’t read any of these books yet (actually, I haven’t read the latest in the main Discworld series yet either), but he has been enjoying them.  The previous books in the series are, in the following order: Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith.

It starts with whispers.

Then someone picks up a stone.

Finally, the fires begin.

When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.

But someone—or something—is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root—before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.

Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.

The Broken Kingdoms
by N. K. Jemisin
412pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.8/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.53/5

The Broken Kingdoms is the second book in The Inheritance trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, following closely behind the February release of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first novel.  The third book, The Kingdom of Gods, will be available in 2011 and is told from the point of view of Sieh, the trickster god.

The majority of The Broken Kingdoms takes place ten years after the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  While this book has a different main character than the previous novel and could work as a stand alone, I’d recommend starting at the beginning.  Since Oree, the main character, does not have a lot of inside knowledge about the events ten years ago, she does not understand all of what is happening for a while, but those who have read the first novel will be one step ahead of her.  Although it might be fun to discover what is happening right along with the narrator, knowledge of the background will help to get the most from the story.  Plus it is fun to see familiar characters from the first book make appearances.

One month after the appearance of the World Tree in Sky, Oree left her home to go live there.  For ten years she makes a meager living selling her artwork in the streets.  One morning when she goes to throw out her paint, she happens to see a rather unusual sight – she sees “glory awaken in a pile of muck” when a glowing man arises from a heap of garbage.

It may seem unusual that Oree can see anything at all – she is actually blind.  However, she has always been able to see magic, leading her to believe this man must be one of the many godlings living in the city.  She takes him home out of a combination of kindness and loneliness but soon discovers she’s not quite sure what this man is:


I was almost certain he was a godling. The “almost” lay in the fact that he had the strangest magic I’d ever heard of.  Rising from the dead? Glowing at sunrise? What did that make him, the god of cheerful mornings and macabre surprises? He never spoke the gods’ language – or any language for that matter. I suspected he was mute. And I could not see him, save in the mornings and those moments when he came back to life, which meant he was magical only at those times. Any other time he was just an ordinary man. [pp. 20]

This extraordinary personage, whom Oree nicknames “Shiny,” never speaks to her until Oree finds a dead godling in an alley.  This seems to have raised his ire, leading to trouble with a priest of Itempas.  Oree gets help to bail him out of trouble, and in the process, she meets a couple of other gods who seem rather unhappy with Shiny.  It leaves her wondering just who he is and why no one will tell her anything about him, but it seems they have bigger problems – they learn that there are 30 days to find the murderer of this godling or one of the three gods not known for restraint is going to deal with it.

Like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I loved The Broken Kingdoms, which I actually thought was a little better than the first book.  It was very absorbing – after reading just a few pages, it became difficult to put down.  The world, the characters and the writing all just work so well for me, and call me sadistic, but I also liked that the ending was bittersweet with more bitter than sweet.  Not everything worked out perfectly, but it also made sense as the reasoning behind the conclusion was fitting for the characters involved.

The Broken Kingdoms is told from the first person perspective of Oree, a young blind woman who can see magic and has some magical ability of her own through her artwork.  Oree is a very likable character, compassionate with a lot of inner strength, and I rather liked her unique magic.  Like Yeine, the narrator in the first book, Oree has a very conversational narration style, and she is also trying to uncover part of her identity – why she has this ability, exactly how it works and what it means.  Her voice is very chatty and direct, and at times she will even pause in her story to say how she feels about what she has to tell us next.  There were a couple of times I was taken out of the story because she did use some rather modern expressions such as talking about someone trying to “chat her up” but for the most part I was very riveted by the way she casually related her tale.  Just because her voice is informal, it does not mean there are not some lovely passages, though, such as the first time she saw the god she eventually took home with her:


At first I saw only delicate lines of gold limn the shape of a man. Dewdrops of glimmering silver beaded along his flesh and then ran down it in rivulets, illuminating the texture of skin in smooth relief. I saw some of those rivulets move impossibly upward, igniting the filaments of his hair, the stern-carved lines of his face.

And as I stood there, my hands damp with paint and my door standing open behind me, forgotten, I saw this glowing man draw a deep breath — which made him shimmer even more beautifully — and open eyes whose color I would never be able to fully describe, even if I someday learn the words. The best I can do is compare it to things I do know: the heavy thickness of red gold, the smell of brass on a hot day, desire and pride.

Yet, as I stood there, transfixed by those eyes, I saw something else: pain. So much sorrow and grief and anger and guilt, and other emotions I could not name because when all was said and done, my life up to then had been relatively happy. There are some things one can understand only by experience, and there are some experiences no one wants to share. [pp. 16 – 17]

As much as I liked Oree, I did find there was one instance where it seemed to take her longer to put two and two together than I would have expected.  She had all the information, but did not seem to realize what that implied until it was pointed out to her.  Also, there were a few times I felt her descriptions were a little too descriptive for a blind person, but these were also a bit tricky since she could see at times so I tried not to wonder about it too much.

The Broken Kingdoms also showed the aftermath of the end of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and how the world has changed as a result.  As a commoner, Oree also had a very different viewpoint from Yeine since she mostly saw the outskirts of the palace.  Her life consisted of selling her artwork in the streets with others who were barely scraping by.  It was still far from ordinary since she had magical abilities and was romantically involved with one of the godlings, but she didn’t have much knowledge about the royal family or many of the things Yeine knew about.

On the topic of Yeine, she, Sieh and Nahadoth do all appear in this novel.  I was particularly happy to see Sieh, so childlike but also cold and not someone you want to tick off.  The gods range from inhuman to almost human-seeming, and a lot of the more major ones tend toward being temperamental and prone to over-reaction.  Yet they still do have definite motives for being upset.

The Broken Kingdoms had everything I loved about the first book in this trilogy – an absorbing story, an intriguing setting and world mythology, and a likable narrator with a compelling voice.  The next book cannot come out soon enough.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher.

Read the first three chapters:

Other Reviews:

Review(s) of other books in this series:

This week’s post is a little late…  I ended up taking a break this weekend since I spent the part of my Sunday I normally spend on blogging moving things to the storage room, doing laundry, and working.  And earlier in the day I was trying to finish this very fun book I started on Saturday, Resenting the Hero by Moira J. Moore.  Even though I got a book in the mail today, I’m still going to limit this to books received prior to Sunday.  This is a review copy that I am going to have to read sometime this month.

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington

This is the second Aetherial Tales book (although it is a separate story from the first one and is supposed to be a stand alone).  I absolutely loved the first Aetherial Tales book, Elfland, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this one.  It certainly made me want to read more by the author for its depth of characters and beautiful writing – and for just being one of those books that stuck with me and remained in my thoughts.  Midsummer Night will be available as a hardcover on November 23.

A sensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption

Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials—the fair folk—is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man?

The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

Update on June 15: Since this is old news now and everyone seems to be getting here when searching for reviews of this book, here’s the Magic Slays review posted yesterday!  In case that is what you were actually looking for…  Now back to the original post if you were in fact interested in that.

Today Ilona Andrews posted the cover for the fifth book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Slays.  This makes me happy – after reading Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds, I cannot wait to find out what happens next!  Books three and four really made me think this is how a series should be – a little more is revealed with each book while ramping up the suspense about Kate’s history, it’s action-packed but also character-focused, it’s both memorable and entertaining, and it makes me laugh.  I love this series and seeing the next book coming closer to finished is very exciting!

Magic Slays

Elfland is the first book published in the United States by British author Freda Warrington, who has written nineteen fantasy novels total.  This book is the first of the Aetherial Tale novels, which is not exactly a series but rather a collection of books that take place in the same setting. A second Aetherial Tale novel, Midsummer Night, will be released on November 23.  Warrington is currently working on a third related novel, The Grail of the Summer Stars.

Some of the ancient race of Aetherials live among the humans and have adapted to appear human themselves while others still remain in the Otherworld from which they came.  The Vaethyr, Aetherials living on Earth, remain connected to the Otherworld through a lychgate that always remains open, and every seven years there is a celebration in which the Aetherials enter the Otherworld through the Great Gates.  However, the Gatekeeper, Lawrence Wilder, has become so fearful of a dangerous presence he senses in the Otherworld that he closes the gates completely.  This does not go over particularly well with the other Aetherials, who demand he do his job as Gatekeeper and open the gates, but Lawrence insists he is doing his job – protecting the Aetherials from harm.  Either way, they are in trouble since they cannot thrive without the energy from their home.

Unfortunately for the young Aetherials, this also means missing out on an important rite of passage.  Once they reach sixteen, the teens get to visit the Otherworld for the first time and experience it firsthand. Instead they are left to wonder about this other realm, caught between feeling not quite human but not quite Aetherial.  While some dream of the Otherworld and dedicate themselves to somehow breaching the gates, others try to ignore their origins as much as possible.  Yet when denying this other nature leads to disaster, embracing the Aetheric side may be the only way to prevent even worse consequences.

The Gatekeeper
The Gatekeeper. The movie version always screws up something from the book.

Elfland is contemporary fantasy, but it’s not the common fast-paced urban fantasy featuring a tough, smart-mouthed woman.  It’s mainly a character-driven novel about the lives of the Fox and Wilder children as they grow up and come to a better understanding of what it means to be a part of the ancient Aetherial race.  After a couple of brief prologues, it begins with the first meeting between the Fox and Wilder children and follows them through early adulthood.  In many ways, they seem like typical humans as they deal with love and pain, but they also have this dual nature of seeming human but not really being able to experience what it is to be Aetherial.  Normally they would learn all about their heritage at sixteen, but with the Gatekeeper’s insistence that the gates remain closed, this other realm becomes shrouded in mystery.

The story of these two families is heavily dramatic.  At first, the Foxes appear to be the perfect family while the Wilders seem very dysfunctional – Lawrence Wilder is thought to be insane, his wife left when the boys were young and Sam Wilder is a teenage delinquent. Yet it turns out both families have their secrets, and people from either are capable of making poor decisions with disastrous consequences.  The pages are filled with unconventional relationships, unrequited love, jealous rages, and affairs.  For a while, it seemed as though every chapter ended on this big melodramatic note, but it was riveting for one reason: I’d really come to care about these characters and I felt like I (mostly) understood where they were coming from.

While the story switches perspectives a few times, it is mainly about Rosie Fox and her relationships – with her brothers Matthew and Lucas; Jon Wilder, whom she loved more than anything even though he didn’t notice she existed; Sam Wilder, who adored Rosie; and to a lesser extent her best friend Faith, whose part I can’t really talk about without getting into spoilers.  Rosie is compassionate with a penchant for growing things and a love of gardening, probably due to her family’s affinity with earth.  Every time she was hurt or chose a course that wasn’t right for her, my heart broke right along with hers.  Yet even when she did make a decision that you realized may not be right for her, it was understandable – she was trying to do what her head thought was right but her heart had a hard time following.  In the end, I think this novel was largely about following your instincts and being true to yourself.  Also, it dealt with the fact that you can’t always judge someone based on who they appear to be on the surface.  It was also partially a love story with a fantastic romance – heart-wrenching at times but so satisfying at other times.

The other characters were just as lovable as Rosie, at least by the end even if not initially.  Her brother Matthew tried so hard to deny his Aetherial side while her good-natured brother Lucas and aloof Jon Wilder tried so hard to embrace it.  Sam was labeled a trouble-maker, but he also didn’t really seem a bad guy other than when he was very young.  They were all three dimensional and the best part is they all changed throughout the course of the novel.  No one was quite the same person by the end as they were in the beginning or middle of the book.  There were tragedies, but those involved ended up stronger for them (although most of these tragic circumstances were fixed a little too easily – I was happy with how they were resolved, but at the same time, I felt like it lessened the impact they could have had a little).

While the fantasy element was well done, someone mainly reading the book for the fantasy world may be disappointed.  There are certainly parts that deal with the Aetherials, especially closer to the end, but the middle in particular of this 600 page book is largely a family/relationship-oriented drama.  However, there are certainly some beautiful descriptions, including one of the creation of the first Aetherials:


“First there was the Cauldron, the void at the beginning and end of time.  As if the void brooded on its own emptiness, a spark appeared like a thought in the blackness. That spark was the Source. For the first time or the ten millionth time — we can never know — the Source exploded in an outrush of starfire.

“As the star-streams cooled they divided and took on qualities each according to its own nature: stone and wind, fire and water and ether. From those primal energies, all worlds were formed.

“On that outrush came Estel the Eternal, also called Lady of Stars, who created herself with that first spark of thought. Her face is the night sky, her hair a milky river of stars. For eons Estel presided over the birth of the sun and planets and hidden realms. She watched as the Earth roiled with liquid rock and white-hot fires, until the molten torrents birthed Qesoth: a vast elemental of fire and lava. Qesoth brought with her a dark twin, Brawth, a giant shadow that breathed ice. These two fought battles that shook the planet until Estel, to make them cease, took a great rock and smashed Qesoth into pieces. Her shadow twin Brawth dissipated with her, scattering fragments of fire and ice that rained into the boiling oceans. Those fragments seethed with wild energy and rose to become the first Aetherials, who were called Estalyr; forged in fire, washed in rain and infused with the breath of life.” [pp. 62]

Elfland had compelling characters, some beautiful prose and a fascinating world.  The fantasy aspect of the story does mostly take a backseat to the characters and their dramas, but their story made this book nearly impossible to put down – even if it did sometimes verge toward a little too much melodrama.  It was one of those books that immediately gripped me and never let go until it was finished. It kept me up reading later than I should be and kept returning to my thoughts when I wasn’t reading it, and I will definitely be reading more by Freda Warrington.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Excerpt

Other Reviews: